Publishing on the History of Chinese Philosophy

The recent discussion of the scope of “philosophy” reminded me of Amy Olberding’s excellent idea that those of us with tenure, at least, should make a point of endeavoring to publish in “general” philosophy journals, at least some of the time. (Just to be clear: this is no criticsm of existing journals focused on Chinese or comparative philosophy!) I am finishing up an essay on how to understand (and translate) tian in the context of Neo-Confucianism, and thought that it might make sense to try submitting it to a general history of philosophy journal. Which to choose? I decided to do a little research. I was pretty sure that Brian Leiter’s blog would have some sort of ranking of such journals, and sure enough, it does (from 2010). What surprised me was what I found when I started looking at the journals’ websites.

I will list below the ten journals chosen as the best from the poll conducted in 2010, as well as excerpts from what I found on the journals’ websites, and the occasional comment (emphasis in bold added by me). First, though, a summary of my observations:

  • Five of the ten explicitly limit their scope to the history of Western philosophy. In a way this is progress, since they are explicit about their narrow scope (I wonder if/when these statements were revised to include the qualifier “Western”?), but it is still disappointing.
  • Four of the five remaining journals, which may be more open in principle, have published little or nothing related to Chinese philosophy, though it is hard to judge to what degree this reflects a lack of submissions.
  • One journal, History of Philosophy Quarterly, has published several substantial articles on the history of Chinese philosophy.

The ten journals:

  1. Journal of the History of Philosophy
    1. “Founded in response to a motion passed by the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association in December 1957 approving “the establishment of a journal devoted to the history of philosophy,” the Journal of the History of Philosophy is an internationally recognized quarterly that publishes peer-reviewed articles, notes, discussions, and book reviews devoted to the history of Western philosophy, broadly conceived.”
  2. Philosophical Review
    1. “The journal aims to publish original scholarly work in all areas of analytic philosophy, with an emphasis on material of general interest to academic philosophers, and is one of the few journals in the discipline to publish book reviews.”
    2. Searches on “Confucian” and “Chinese” in issues since 2000 provided only one real hit, a review of May Sim’s Remastering Morals with Aristotle and Confucius.
  3. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research
    1. “From its founding, the journal has been open to a variety of methodologies and traditions. This may be seen in the list of outstanding contributors through the years, which includes: Edmund Husserl, Ernest Nagel, C.I. Lewis, Alfred Tarski, Martin Buber, Rudolf Carnap, Arthur Lovejoy, Gustav Bergmann, Nelson Goodman, Arthur Pap, Roy Wood Sellars, Wilfrid Sellars, C.J. Ducasse, Roderick M. Chisholm, Lewis White Beck, Brand Blanshard, John Findlay, Morton White, and J.J.C. Smart. This tradition of openness continues, as reflected by a statement appearing in every issue: “PPR publishes articles in a wide range of areas including philosophy of mind, epistemology, ethics, metaphysics, and philosophical history of philosophy. No specific methodology or philosophical orientation is required in submissions.””
    2. Given its stated openness, I tried a search for “Confucian,” and though I got a few hits, all but David Wong’s “Moral Reasons: Internal and External” date from the 1940s-1960s.
  4. British Journal for the History of Philosophy
    1. “The BJHP publishes articles and reviews on the history of philosophy from the ancient world to the end of the twentieth century. The journal is designed to foster understanding of the history of philosophy through studying the writings of past philosophers in their context and with sensitivity to issues of both philosophical argumentation and historical development. Although focusing on the recognized classics, a feature of the journal is to give attention to less major figures and to influences and relationships that are often overlooked. Articles cover the history of Western philosophy, although articles that explore connections to other traditions are also encouraged.”
  5. Archiv fur Geschichte der Philosophie
    1. “The journal publishes exceptional scholarship in all areas of western philosophy from antiquity up to contemporary philosophy.”
  6. History of Philosophy Quarterly
    1. “History of Philosophy Quarterly (HPQ) specializes in papers that cultivate philosophical history with a strong interaction between contemporary and historical concerns. Contributors regard work in the history of philosophy and in philosophy itself as parts of a seamless whole, treating the work of past philosophers not only in terms of historical inquiry, but also as a means of dealing with issues of ongoing philosophical concern. The journal favors the approach to philosophical history, increasingly prominent in recent years, that refuses to see the boundary between philosophy and its history as an impassable barrier.”
    2. A search on “Confucian” on issues from 2009 to the present turned up four substantiual articles (see here).
  7. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society
    1. “The Aristotelian Society, founded in 1880, is one of the oldest and most prestigious philosophy societies. Content covers all areas of philosophy, including Epistemology, Philosophy of Mind, Metaphysics, Meta-Ethics, and History of Western Philosophy.”
  8. European Journal of Philosophy
    1. “For much of its recent past, philosophy in Europe has been pursued in disparate schools. Even within a given school, exchanges between individuals in different European nations have been severely limited. In view of a growing desire to overcome current insularity, the European Journal of Philosophy aims to constitute a forum to which all philosophers, both inside and outside Europe, can turn to rediscover the diversity and variety of the European tradition. Maintaining a healthy respect for the existing variety, the European Journal of Philosophy sets also aims to constitute a forum that will enhance exchanges between individuals within a given tradition and encourage the exchange of ideas between traditions.”
  9. Canadian Journal of Philosophy
    1. “CJP aims to publish the best work in any area of philosophy in French or English.”
    2. Searches for “Confucian” and for “Chinese” failed to turn up any articles dealing substantially with Chinese philsoophy (its history or otherwise).
  10. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly
    1. “Pacific Philosophical Quarterly publishes original research in all core areas of analytic philosophy including philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, metaphysics, epistemology, metaethics, normative ethics, philosophy of action, philosophy of law, political philosophy, and aesthetics; as well as in history of philosophy.”
    2. Searches on “Confucian” and “Chinese” on issues since 1997 turned up one hit, Richard Kim’s article last spring on “Human Nature and Moral Sprouts: Mencius on the Pollyanna Problem.”

13 replies on “Publishing on the History of Chinese Philosophy”

  1. Hi, Steve,
    This is super useful. When I did the survey of journals for the APA Newsletter, I tried to include some history journals and gave up, exactly because the first few I tried had “western” explicitly flagged in their statements. I’m really glad to see your more thorough look since I worried I was too quick in giving up. But… the result is wildly disappointing!

    On a related note, one thing I wanted to pursue but couldn’t make work with time, limitations, etc., was to survey people in the field about which journals they’ve tried and what sorts of results they got. Some sort of crowd-sourced derived information about which journals are actually open would be nice. Statements about openness can in practice just be lip service, and some journals with no obvious welcoming statements might turn out to be receptive. But since we each largely only know our own submission results, we all stumble through it alone. I mention it here in case someone else wanted to try something crowd-souced to gather in whatever data we collectively have!

    • Amy, do you have any ideas about how we could go about doing this? Maybe some sort of anonymous survey … I have access to software to set up such a thing, though not much expertise on how it actually works. Let me know your thoughts, and let’s see what we can come up with.

  2. Hi, Steve, I have access to software and have created climate surveys for my department with it. It’s easy. The hard part is setting up the questions and then figuring our if we’d need IRB approval. I’m not sure, but I think publicizing any result entails a need for IRB approval. And publicizing the result would key. This was the piece of it that stopped me in my tracks!

    • You’re almost certainly right that publicizing would entail IRB approval, though this kind of research would qualify as ‘exempt’ and (in theory) should get approved without (too much) fuss.

  3. I suppose one could write a paper in philosophy, as distinct from the history of philosophy, that happened to refer conspicuously to something Chinese as contributing to the philosophical work. That’s the kind of article that would be most effective toward increasing respect for and interest in Chinese philosophy, I would think? And (quality permitting) it should be acceptable in any journal featuring whatever kind of philosophy (ethics, metaphysics, etc) the paper is in …

    • Absolutely. This approach is akin to what Huang Yong does in several of the chapters of _Why Be Moral_, and in a number of previous articles (some of which were indeed published in “generalist” journals). The issue that I’m raising isn’t so much about generating interest, but about where things stand now specifically with respect to work in the history of philosophy that does not seek to justify itself with respect to contemporary problems.

    • Indeed, when I sent articles to journals, I didn’t try to see whether they publish non-western stuff, since most of my papers have sufficient discussions of Western materials. The only thing I looked at is their length limit, since my papers tend to be very long. So I tried, with success, the very few journals that do publish long articles.

  4. I had a wonderful experience with The Review of Metaphysics and would happily publish with them again. As one of the oldest “generalist” journals around, is there a particular reason for its exclusion from this list?

    • Hi David, Very glad to hear this, and thanks for sharing your experience! If Amy and I move ahead with some sort of research, we’ll definitely cast our net more widely than just the ten listed above. My intention was not to exclude anything, but rather, in a preliminary way, to start somewhere.

  5. One last addendum in the vein of David Chai’s. Michael Beaney is the editor of BJHP and he does apparently teach a course in Chinese philosophy. That could indicate that the journal will be more interested than its official statement may imply. I point that out because I sometimes wonder if the official statements found on journal websites may (at least sometimes) be artifacts written many years ago and may not reflect evolving interests a journal could have.

  6. Amy, I recently blind-reviewed a paper for BJHP that was comparative in nature, so they are willing to at least consider publishing papers on Chinese philosophy. The same is also true for the journal Sophia.

    Steve, would you be willing to include non-English journals? I am thinking of Germany and France primarily, but there are some in Eastern Europe you can consider too.

  7. While it is important that we try our best to make as many generalist journals to publish Chinese philosophy as possible, as the editor of a specialist journal in Chinese philosophy, I would like to take this opportunity to invite you to continue to send your work our way. While our acceptance rate continues to drop, which means the number of submissions is increasing, there are perhaps not as many submissions from senior scholars as in the past. So your continuous support for our journal is most appreciated.

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